There is a very inspiring article in the Guardian from Aditya Chakrabortty on how Granby, a small area of Liverpool, has been regenerated by the local community.
The development was driven in particular by a few women who lived there and who fought against the neglect of the authorities and the plans to demolish their homes.
You can listen to one of the women, Hazel Tilley, describing what they did in this podcast.
A key element of the transformation was the setting up of a Community Land Trust. This provided a legal entity which could own land and raise funds. The Granby women were lucky enough to get a large loan from a social investor. But he would not have been able to do this had there been no legal entity for him to loan the money to.
So what is a Community Land Trust?
Community Land trusts are not a new idea, they started in the USA, but have only been possible, in England, since the passing of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008. Section 79 (intriguingly entitled “English bodies”) describes them as follows
(1) In this Part “English body” means—
… (d) a community land trust which owns land in England …
(2) In subsection (1)(d) “community land trust” means a body corporate which satisfies the conditions below.
(3) … “local community” means the individuals who live or work, or want to live or work, in a specified area.
(4) Condition 1 is that the body is established for the express purpose of furthering the social, economic and environmental interests of a local community by acquiring and managing land and other assets in order—
(a) to provide a benefit to the local community, and
(b) to ensure that the assets are not sold or developed except in a manner which the trust’s members think benefits the local community.
(5) Condition 2 is that the body is established under arrangements which are expressly designed to ensure that—
(a) any profits from its activities will be used to benefit the local community (otherwise than by being paid directly to members),
(b) individuals who live or work in the specified area have the opportunity to become members of the trust (whether or not others can also become members), and
(c) the members of the trust control it.
If you want something a bit more user-friendly, here is a short video:
You will see that the legislation specifically refers to England. Community Land Trusts do however also exist in Wales, indeed the Welsh Government is actively encouraging them and has produced a handbook.
What about co-housing?
You may remember that a few weeks ago I wrote about the co-housing movement. How is this different?
I think the answer to that is that it is a different solution to the same problem. A Community Land Trust is a special sort of legal entity which is better suited to community-led movements. So:
- Co-housing /co-operative projects seem to be where a group of people decide they want to do something collaboratively and go and find somewhere to do it.
- Community Land Trusts seem to arise more where people already living in an area want to save it / develop it themselves and control how it is used, for the benefit of the community. As opposed, for example, to having it knocked down by the Council and handed over to a developer.
But they both spring from the same desire of people to have control over their own destiny and do things in a different way. Indeed the legal entity chosen by a co-operative or co-housing group may be a Community Land Trust.
So what do you do if you want to set up a Community Land Trust? Well, the most important word is in the title. Community. There has to be a groundswell of need and desire to do something among local people.
Local Communities wanting to set up a Community Land Trust should head on over to the National Community Land Trust Network website which has masses of information, a history of the movement, success stories, lists of existing Community Land Trusts, and resources for practical (and financial) help.
Indeed they are going further than that and have been running local events and a Conference. There is a lot of help out there.
So if you and your neighbours are in despair about what is happening in your neighbourhood and want to do something about it – take a look. Sometimes once you get going and put in time and effort – extraordinary things happen. The Granby women won the Turner Prize.
Your future could be very bright. If you make it so.